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Childhood Obesity in United Arab Emirates

Introduction

Childhood obesity is becoming a persistent problem in the UAE, with very few effective interventions currently in place to help alleviate the situation. By definition, obesity is a health condition characterized by a very high body mass index. The body mass index is the ratio of height to weight used to determine one’s ideal body weight range, with a high BMI indicating that the individual is too heavy for his/her height. Childhood obesity in this case refers to the condition of obesity amongst children, mostly aged between 0 and 19 years (Katsaiti& Al-Shamsy, 2014). No one seems to be paying attention to the alarming statistics associated with childhood obesity, and it is time the government did something about it if the nation is to have a healthy future. Obesity levels are reportedly higher amongst teenagers, meaning that in the next five to ten years over 40% of the young adults will be living with chronic health conditions that will make them frail instead of enjoying their prime and being able to contribute actively to national growth and development (Katsaiti& Al-Shamsy, 2014).To prevent this worrying eventuality, childhood obesity must be tackled now and effectively so. The aim of the research is to clarify what is responsible for the impending childhood obesity: the government policy crisis or the habits of the Emirati society. The goal is to pinpoint the root of the problem so as to understand how it can be resolved effectively. Obesity is a critical problem that costs the nation millions of dollars in health care among other things. The fact that the condition is currently affecting so many children means that the future is even bleaker and, thus, something must be done to rectify the situation.

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Literature Review

Several researchers have examined the issue of obesity in the United Arab Emirates from different perspectives such as health and economic status. Junaibi, Abdulle, Sabri, Hag-Ali & Nagelkerke (2013) investigated the prevalence and determinants of childhood obesity within the UAE, with the findings indicating a number of independent factors contributing to the situation. According to their findings, gender, diet, age and parental BMI are identified by these authors as the independent determinants that link to the risk of childhood obesity, meaning that different contexts affect the children differently (Junaibi, Abdulle, Sabri, Hag-Ali & Nagelkerke, 2013). In line with this study, nutrition is not the only issue in the UAE’s impending childhood obesity crisis.

In their analysis, Katsaiti & El Anshasy (2013) corroborated the findings by the above authors and stated that diet and exercise may not be the greatest issues in childhood obesity. In their article, the authors found that culture and other geographical attributes interact with the individuals’ behavioral contexts to determine their risk of obesity. The study, focusing on the students from North Africa and the Middle East, demonstrated that contrary to popular belief, eating fast food and being physically inactive were not the underlying determinants for obesity. This means that one’s diet and attitude to physical activity may not prevent them from being obese.

One other hand, Wam (2016) provides the worrying statistics on childhood obesity in the UAE. According to the article, over 33% of the children in Dubai alone are overweight. It is possible to suppose that being overweight is not entirely the same as being obese and thus the statistics for obesity could be less alarming. However, it should also be noted that the numbers in Dubai do not reflect the actual situation in the whole of the UAE. The population in Dubai is slightly different in terms of modernization, and it is likely that they are consequently more aware and, thus, more proactive in the prevention of childhood obesity compared to their neighbors in other emirates.

The article by Zaman documents other worrying statistics (2010). According to this article, children who are inactive and, thus, most likely overweight, risk getting heart complications that could render them rather fragile for the rest of their lives (Zaman, 2010). If one is to conclude that all overweight children are physically inactive, then according to Wam (2016) over 33% of school children in Dubai are likely to develop heart conditions in the near future. This is alarming on many levels, but the information is not conclusive based on the fact that there is yet no official evidence between being overweight and being physically inactive.

On the contrary, Ng, Zaghloul, Ali, Harrison, Yeatts, Sadig& Popkin (2011) hold a different view on the issue of obesity in the UAE. In their article, Nget al., (2011) argue that physical activity and diet are effectively responsible for the cardiometabolic issues that the UAE population is facing. According to this article, people who consume many processed sugars and fats, are physically inactive, or have very low levels of physical activity can be expected to be obese. It may not be an automatic situation but the authors argue that in most cases, people who consume many calories and do not exercise are simply likely to carry excess weight on their bodies.

Katsaiti& Al-Shamsy (2014) castigates the UAE governments for failing to address the worsening state of childhood obesity. Katsaiti& Al-Shamsy (2014) state that so far, none of the UAE government has even recognized the gravity of childhood obesity in the country. The article cites that there are no cut-offs that can be used to determine whether a child is obese within the UAE. Most of the statistics is made using the standards from other parts of the world, thus showing the low level of commitment that the issue is receiving.

From the articles reviewed in this section, it becomes clear that the problem requires more research in order to determine whether nutrition and physical activity play a significant role in the prevalence of childhood obesity. Without a complete understanding of the underlying determinants of the condition, it would be difficult to find a working solution to the problem that continues to escalate. With over 80% of the UAE population being physically inactive most of the time, there is a dire need to understand what causes obesity in order to save the nation from an impending crisis.

Methodology

In this paper, the researcher will rely on secondary sources to understand scientific  achievements on the problem of childhood obesity. This involves analyzing published research papers that can provide empirical evidence on the connection between physical activity, nutrition, and the condition in question. The research study will mainly analyze statistical data connected with the variables of the condition under investigation.

Outline

  1. Introduction

The introduction as stated in this proposal

  1. Main body
  2. Defining childhood obesity in the UAE
  3. Prevalence of childhood obesity in the UAE
  4. Government policies related to childhood obesity in the UAE
  5. Cultural contexts related to childhood obesity in the UAE
  6. Potential working solutions to the problem of childhood obesity in the UAE
  7. Conclusion

In order to actually eliminate the problem of childhood obesity and to have healthy young adults in the next five to ten years, it is important for the government to fully evaluate the present situation. Various independent determinants have been associated with childhood obesity and for the most part each case seems different from the next. For some children, the BMI issues are considered genetic, for others, dietary and even hormonal or related to their limited exposure to physical exertion. While most of these determinants are social and cultural in context, it remains crucial for the government to take control of and avert the crisis by seeking to disseminate information and introduce measures that would gradually help to remedy the situation effectively.

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